With last night’s 6-0 win over the ChiSox, the Baltimore Orioles find themselves 14 games over .500 for the first time since June of 2005. Think about where you were at that time…I know I did last night, and it was kind of fun to think about! It also illustrates how lackluster the Orioles have been over time. It wasn’t until 2008 that we saw the beginnings of things starting to turn around. By that I mean the seedlings were planted when Adam Jones was traded to the Birds. In last night’s game, Jones hit his 25th home run of the season (first in 110 at-bats) which was also the 100th of his career. Chris Tillman started the game last night and recorded the win. Tillman’s line: 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 5 K.
Tillman came over with Adam Jones in that 2008 trade (along with George Sherrill, Kam Mikolio, and Tony Butler) which sent Erik Bedard to Seattle. Bedard of course has had numerous injury problems since then, and has turned into a journeyman pitcher. Bedard was released by the Pittsburgh Pirates yesterday afternoon, on the same day that Jones and Tillman turned in their big games for the Birds. (Having said that, this is something that will probably work in Bedard’s favor because I suspect that a contending team might consider picking him up.)
Nick Markakis came up in the last of the second with the bases loaded, and promptly cleared them with a three-RBI double. That set the tone for the evening against potential Cy Young candidate Chris Sale. The Orioles seemed to have an answer all night long for whatever the normally dominating southpaw threw at them. Sale would give up a solo homer to Lew Ford – who’s “built tough” – in the third, before being lifted after the fourth inning in favor of Philip Humber. It was unclear why Sale was taken out so early, although it didn’t appear to be injury related.
The Orioles also made it through the game using only one reliever. Brian Matusz was equally as impressive as Tillman during his two innings of work, allowing only one infield single. Matusz appeared to enter the game with a certain moxie about him that wasn’t always present when he was a starter. One might look at that as not having the pressure of starting the game and so forth. No pitcher sets out to work out of the bullpen, as they all want to start. However some guys end up there, and many of them have long careers as successful relievers.
The night belonged to the entire team, however most specifically to Adam Jones. However I liked what he said on WBAL’s postgame show to the effect that it’s not “Adam Jones or Nick Markakis playing, it’s the Orioles.” It’s a team game and a team effort for sure, however it’s worth saying again that last night’s homer was the 100th in Jones’ career. That’s a milestone worth mentioning in my book. Furthermore, it’s also worth saying that it was an opposite-field shot. True power hitters have the uncanny ability to send balls the opposite way from time to time, and I’ve seen Jones do just that a couple of times this year. That’s why he’s hitting in the cleanup spot, and it’s part of what makes him the leader of this team. (On a side note, I have to wonder what former Seattle GM Bill Bavasi was doing last night while Tillman and Jones were playing for the Orioles, and Erik Bedard – for whom he traded Tillman and Jones – was being released?)
The Orioles were reportedly close to a deal with Randy Wolf last night; Wolf was released previously by the Milwaukee Brewers, and the Birds feel that he could help with the playoff push. From what I’ve heard there’s a mutual interest, so it’s only a matter of getting a deal done. The newest Oriole, Joe Saunders, will make his Orioles’ debut tonight in game three against Chicago. The southpaw is 6-10 with a 4.22 ERA this year (with Arizona). It’ll be interesting to see how he adjusts to being back in the American Leauge; one thing that will work in his favor is that he won’t have to swing the lumber. Saunders hails from nearby Falls Church, VA, and grew up an Oriole fan. Chicago will counter with rookie Dylan Axelrod, who’s coming up from triple-A to make the start after Gavin Floyd went to the DL. On a “coming attractions” note, keep in mind that tomorrow’s series finale with the ChiSox is a 12:30 PM matinee due to the Baltimore Grand Prix. It also allows the Orioles to get into NY at a much earlier hour to prepare for their series with the Yankees, which will be one of the most important O’s/Yanks’ series’ in years.